Back in April 2023 it was announced that we (Trainer Armour) had been shortlisted for the Enterprising Worcestershire Start-up Business of the Year Award. My sceptical side immediately thought that it would be a shortlist of 20 or so. However, to my surprise, it was a shortlist of 3. The other 2 companies were, Smilebox and Refurbished Turbine Components.
Not long after the shortlist was announced, I received an invitation to book some seats for the exclusive awards ceremony, where the winners would be announced. The event promised to be a memorable afternoon at the impressive Wood Norton Hotel near Evesham.
The afternoon Included a lavish lunch menu, a local celebrity compere, an inspirational guest speaker and the chance to network with a room of my peers. How could I refuse such an invite!! As I mulled it over the penny suddenly dropped - "Hang on, I get it now. The catch will be that it's £100 per seat". But, yet again, I was astonished to discover that the tickets were free.
"Great, I can get a free lunch and an afternoon's entertainment. Sign me up!"
The day of the awards arrived. Martin and I went for the smart casual look. In other words, we wanted to look like we'd make an effort but that we'd not tried too hard.
After a short stint of networking we sat down to enjoy lunch and the guest speaker - Grace Graham.
Grace Graham is the Founder of Work Spa and is a Prince’s Trust Ambassador. She delivered a truly inspirational talk. During which, she shared stories about her personal struggles and her uplifting journey toward business success.
The time came for the winners of each category to be announced. Up until this point I'd not felt any nerves because I'd convinced myself that we were only there to make up the numbers. But, as the moment approached, I started to feel the same sensation as I had when I had my toes dangling over the edge of a platform overlooking the Kawarau river, in New Zealand, moments before hurling myself off with a big elastic band attached round my ankles.
Thankfully, we were not the first category, so I had chance to see how the process worked - short introduction, category winner announced, followed by a speech from the winner. A speech!!! I hadn't even thought about a speech,' let alone practiced a funny one liner in front of the mirror. It was too late to get worried, our category was up next. The compere read the notes about why Smilebox, Refurbished Turbine Components and ourselves could all be worthy winners, and then it was time for the big reveal!
And the winner of Enterprising Worcestershire Start-up Business of the Year Award goes to... Smilebox - is what I expected Grace Graham to say. But, as it turns out, someone on the judging panel thought otherwise, so Grace read out Trainer Armour instead. For a split second everything paused as I tried to take in the moment - lots of applause and a huge grin spreading across Martin's face. This was quickly followed with panic as I knew I'd need to compose myself to give a polished speech in recognition of this accolade.
With applause ringing around the room, Martin and I made our way up to the stage and were presented with the award. A glance over to Martin, who had a 'rabbit in the headlights' look, told me that he wasn't going to take one for the team and deliver the speech. I turned to the podium took a deep breath and said... "I'm only here for the free lunch" - oops!!
Thankfully, it got a laugh and I then blurted out words for another minute or so, probably thanking my Mum and Dad, my agent, etc. To be honest, I can't remember what I said or whether I managed to say anything insightful - It was all a bit of a blur.
If I had written a speech it would have mentioned that for any business, especially small start-ups, it is incredible to be recognised for your achievements by people who are away from the four walls of the business. Anybody who takes the brave steps to start a new business should be applauded because it takes a tremendous amount of determination, drive and self-belief.
We all hope our little start-up businesses will be successful, but at the end of the day, awards don't pay the bills. However, they are uplifting and will certainly motivate you to keep making progress within your business adventure.
Thank you to everyone involved with the Enterprising Worcestershire team that helped organise the event.